Energy policy: Look to the future!
To the Editor:
Unfortunately, our local, state and federal officials appear to lack an energy policy vision for the future. The headlines seem to glorify wind and solar while demonizing natural gas, oil, coal and nuclear-powered electrical energy generation.
Strangely, the use of hydrogen as a future fuel to power homes and vehicles is rarely discussed. Instant gratification seems to be the chosen philosophy of operation.
A common sense approach would include a "timeline" for the logical changes to implement different energy sources without threatening our economy and way of life. The phase down, phase out and phase in of new methods to generate electricity is an essential part of any planning process.
Wind vs. natural gas: Very large government subsidies to implement wind energy seem illogical. The Baldacci Wind energy plan proposed 2700 megawatts of "capacity" with thousands of wind turbines on the Maine mountaintops over a 350-mile range. The natural beauty and wildlife considerations have been dismissed.
What people have not heard in the dialog is that only 20% of the stated electricity "capacity" will be delivered to the grid for distribution to the homes and businesses. That 20% of 2700 Mega Watts (540 Mega Watts) represents less than the amount of
energy that could be produced by only two to three natural gas powered plants without destroying our mountains. Those natural gas plants are already in place, in Maine, with potential to lower the cost of electricity rather than the increased cost of electricity represented by wind energy.
Natural gas, as a fuel, is plentiful in North America and has low CO2 emission characteristics. Wind power is not a good choice for now or the future. Natural gas, with a very high capacity factor is a fuel source that can serve America for many decades to come.
The Town of Rumfordapproved a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) to introduce the Rumford natural
gas plant. The plant has an electrical generation capacity of 265 megawatts. Essentially, the plant is used as a backup rather that as a fully operational power generator. It seems that the wind developers and the federal and state politicians have suggested a costly and inefficient energy solution when compared to the potential utilization of natural gas.
Solar vs. wind: Selected investment in solar power technologies could reap benefits for now and the future. Maine could leverage numerous new technology jobs by attracting materials technology businesses. Advances in solar power technologies are eminent.
Oil and coal: During the next two to three decades, while technologists develop replacement methods to drive our economy, America will continue to be dependent on these fossil fuels to build upon our fragile economy. Fossil Fuel emissions should be monitored and corrective actions should be implemented. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”
Nuclear: The recent catastrophe in Japan after the earthquake has slowed down any developments for new nuclear power plants although they are the most efficient and cost effective source of electric power. Time will dictate the use of nuclear power in America.
Hydrogen: The industrial countries of the world are beginning to understand that hydrogen powered electrical energy is a potential primary technology to power homes and ground transportation vehicles. Experimental vehicles are demonstrable today with the need for advanced technology and cost reduction requirements for mass production.
The challenges are there for engineers to overcome. It is reasonably predictable that a hydrogen economy will be in place within a 10 to 20 year horizon. Hydrogen fuel cells will use ocean water for fuel to produce electricity. If global warming has the effect of raising the level of the ocean, the increased use of ocean water as a fuel for hydrogen fuel cells will provide a proper balance to protect the earth inhabitants.
Politics: The Maine politicians, and entrepreneurs should serve the citizens by focusing their energy policies, and
educational goals on evolutionary and revolutionary technology opportunities. Numerous high paying jobs (and the necessary tax revenue) are predictable if an adequate focus is applied to solar and hydrogen energy sectors.
The politicians should understand the fact that natural gas, not wind, is the short-term solution for electricity generation.
We want the future to be ours for our children.